Posted by Kevin Durso
The Phillies open the 2011 Postseason with Game 1 against the Cardinals today. (Courtesy of SI.com)
The Phillies’ playoff runs of the past four years all have one thing in common. The first game of every playoff series means a lot. That will be the case again, as the Phillies open their Postseason run against the Cardinals later today.
The wildcard winners don’t have to think back too far to remember their last game against the Phillies in Citizens Bank Park. The Cardinals won three of four games played between the teams in Philadelphia, but the Phillies know well that the slate is wiped clean.
That means forget the 102 wins on the season for the Phillies, and forget the 3-6 record against the Cardinals. It all starts over right here.
The Phillies main job tomorrow is to get a good outing from Roy Halladay. That’s not something to really worry about. Halladay’s biggest issue will be the heart of the order. If Matt Holliday plays, he adds to the power that Albert Pujols and Lance Berkman add to the order. Yadier Molina is a strong bat, and Rafael Furcal can be a pest at the plate, but the Cardinals lack a few things. Their bottom of the order isn’t as strong, and they really lack speed on the bases. Furcal is possibly the only baserunning threat, which is huge for the Phillies, who may be able to approach the game from a singles standpoint.
The Phillies’ offense will be the other key. Kyle Lohse is not as much of a threat to throw a long game or shutout as Garcia and Carpenter. If the offense can score early, it could settle the Phillies into a groove they hold the whole game.
Here’s a closer look at the pitching matchup, followed by a prediction for Game 1.
Roy Halladay (19-6, 2.35 ERA) Halladay’s last tuneup was last Sunday against the Mets. He allowed just four hits over six shutout innings in the Phillies’ 9-4 win. Halladay has just two losses since August, one of them against the Cardinals. In four career starts against the Cardinals, Halladay is 2-1 with a 2.10 ERA. In three Postseason starts, Halladay is 2-1 with a 2.45 ERA.
Kyle Lohse (14-8, 3.39 ERA) Lohse’s last start was a week ago against the Cubs, where he took a no-decision after allowing one run over six innings. Lohse is also on a hot streak, losing just once in his final start in July. Lohse allowed an unearned run to the Phillies just two weeks ago, holding them to that one run over 7 1/3 innings. In 10 starts against the Phillies, Lohse is 3-4 with a 3.43 ERA. In six Postseason games, Lohse is 0-2 with a 3.38 ERA. Lohse allowed three runs over five innings in his lone playoff start in 2003.
Prediction: Phillies 5, Cardinals 2
The Phillies have the edge in pitching, as Roy Halladay is not only a pitcher willing to go the distance, but also a dominant pitcher when the stakes are higher. He’s the one to beat. If anything is to go wrong for the Phillies, it will be Halladay’s control. Should he have issues, or not get the results he wants, the Phillies could be in trouble. Still, Halladay knows how to shut down a team when the game and season are on the line.
The offense, which has been picked up by the return of Hunter Pence and Ryan Howard, should do the rest. Jimmy Rollins was starting to get hot right before the playoffs began. Expect him to be the table-setter, while Pence shines in his Postseason debut. Halladay will go eight, and Ryan Madson comes in to finish the job.
The Phillies know better than any team that the key to winning is to get ahead. They will continue that trend by getting the early lead in this one, and carrying it the whole way. That then would give them the early series lead as well, and good things seem to happen when the Phillies make the first step.